Barnabas, Clement I, and the Didache

Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows) portrait
Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows) portrait (Photo credit: On Being)

We are starting to talk about Church History in Sunday School – aghast me maties! how dare it not be about the bible! I know, right, but since Christianity does not contain itself solely to Scripture, but was before and proceeds from Scripture, I think it’s okay. Beside, we get to talk about divisions, differences, and theology in a rather different way. Personally, I prefer theological formation from the ground up.

So, I thought I’d share because I haven’t posted in a bit.


This week, I hope to engage the earliest non-New Testament writings. While there are some quibbles of the dates, we will go with the middle ground, leaving us a dating for these works around the turn of the first century. There are reasons, of course. Barnabas is between 70 and 132. Clement is supposedly the third Bishop of Rome. Didache knows Matthew’s Gospel and thus cannot come before the 80’s.

Note, at one time, these books were considered by at least some local churches as equal in canonicity to the New Testament writings.


“Well then, there are three ordinances of the Lord; *the hope of life, which is the beginning and end of our faith; and righteousness, which is the beginning and end of judgment; love shown in gladness and exultation, the testimony of works of righteousness. (1.6)”

Pay attention to chapter 2, as this seems to inform Jewish-Christian relations for centuries and points to a theological view of the destruction of the Temple (which you would know about if you had purchased my book. 😉 )

First Clement:

“Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.”


But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm. 3But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able; and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.”

Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 6.

Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 232.

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8 Replies to “Barnabas, Clement I, and the Didache”

  1. Good subject and post. And if you’re talking about the earliest non-NT Christian writings, don’t overlook the long ending of Mark (16:9-20) and the Pericope de Adultera (Jn 7:53-8:11)… 🙂

  2. Well, with the long ending of Mark, the earliest evidence is Irenaeus (ca. 180) who quotes from Mark 16:19. So that’s the terminus ad quem. The terminus a quo is sometime after Matthew and Luke wrote since neither of them seem to be aware of Mark 16:9-20. Most would say middle- to late-second century since that’s a time when lots of harmonizing was going on (Gospel of the Ebionites, Egerton Papyrus 2, Justin, Tatian’s Diatessaron… granted even GMt and GLk harmonized their sources… kinda funny to think that the way we look at Tatian’s Diatessaron might’ve been the way that someone in the early second century might’ve looked at Luke….), and the long ending of Mark is mostly a harmonizing of post-Easter events.

    With the pericope de adultera, the earliest patristic evidence is 3rd century, and the earliest manuscript with it is Codex Bezae (5th century).

    I think both are good examples of early post-NT writings, but they’re usually not looked at that way since they’ve been known in Gospel manuscripts.

      1. Ignatius and Papias, for sure. To me, Papias is the mysterious one since he wrote five books on the “Expositions of the Lord” but all we have today are a few quotes, mostly from Eusebius. And Papias knew oral traditions beyond the NT… and even stated he preferred secondhand oral traditions more than “the books” (gospels? OT?). His chiliasm is also highly intriguing.

        Anyway, good post and all the best with the study.

  3. Is there anything but tradition to tie Clement the letter to Clement the bishop?

    I’m curious about how his biography of Paul doesn’t fit the standard. What’s our source for suggesting Paul was martyred in Rome? And for Peter ever going to Rome?

    Not being terribly familiar with the order of Paul’s letters (despite reading Goodacre’s old posts on the matter at the moment), I can’t help but think that Paul could well have been killed upon returning to Jerusalem with the collection. That is of course rampant speculation.

    1. I don’t think we need to categorically deny the value of Tradition in determining the historical narrative.

      But, we should have some skepticism.

      As far as Paul and Peter’s death, that is attested in other places beyond Clement’s Letter.

      As to the authorship…. well….

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